Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Technical Debt and The New Thing

Here's a piece on Technical Debt and it's effect on your developers.  Technical Debt is the accumulation of bad stuff in the codebase - magic numbers, duplication of code, hacks to get around some specific problem you don't have the time to fix Right Now.

And he's right - it's damned hard to get any manager to understand that you need to clean up stuff that was done to satisfy a compressed schedule.  You need to make it as clean as possible from the start.  But it's also very dangerous to build the whole shebang from scratch.

One employer tried this.  A new Director hasd come in and was making the big mistake of trashing all the existing project (and people), so she got buy-in to re-write the app.  She hand picked a new team from the existing one, augmented by some contractors she had worked with previously.  But her biggest mistake was preventing the new team from reusing the old code - it had to be all new stuff, and her developers could not talk to the old guard for advice.

So the new project lost all the accumulated wisdom, and all the expertise that was present in the original team, and spent far too long rebuilding the infrastructure.  The project failed miserably.

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